Pop culture feature: why is this so good?

By: Caitlin Taylor

As I mentioned last week, one of my main news sources for all kinds of news is the Huffington Post, both their Twitter and actual news site. So, when it came time to find a good feature article, I started there (of course).

It didn’t take long for me to find an article from last Fall about Taylor Swift‘s fourth studio album “Red”. The article was written by Nekesa Mumbi Moody, the Global Entertainment and Lifestyle editor for the Associated Press.  The article struck me for two reasons. First of all, I am a huge fan of Swift and enjoy reading any type of article about her. Also, I was so intrigued by the way the story was written in both content and style. It made me wonder, what makes it so good anyways?

Taylor Swift & ‘Red’: Singer Talks New Album & ‘Presumptuous’ John Mayer

One thing that drives me up a wall, is a story that is called a “feature” but is actually just a question and answer session printed verbatim. Not only is that usually boring but shows no craft on the end of the writer. Since we’re all here to be journalists, I admire the writers who actually do just that: write.

Moody doesn’t make the entire article a listing of each song and the inspiration behind it, though as an article about an upcoming release, this would be the easiest route to take. The article mentions multiple of Swift’s new songs, yet “Lucky One” (which is one of my favorites) was the only song to get a full paragraph. For me, the talent came with discussing that song and then Moody transitioning it into a broader story about Swift, seamlessly:

It sounds like Swift might be mapping out her eventual exit plan on “The Lucky One,” which depicts the troubling side of celebrity: tabloids, paparazzi, living life in a bubble. It’s certainly a scenario the multimillion-selling Swift can relate to: She’s become a fixture in the gossip pages, especially with her penchant for famous boyfriends, including her latest, Conor Kennedy of the storied political clan.

One of the most important parts of a pop culture feature is having an additional source, besides the feature artist. Bonus points if that source is not the best friend, mom or other very close acquaintance to the star who thinks the featured person is the best thing to ever happen to the world. Moody chose to include Jeff Bhasker a producer, who has worked with Kanye West, Beyonce and fun.,  on his first run-in with Swift:

“She came just by herself and brought her guitar to the studio and played me this song `Holy Ground’ on my couch, and sang it all the way through perfectly and I was just blown away at how stone cold she was,” says Bhasker, who also worked on “The Lucky One.”

“Her style of songwriting is very, very honest,” he adds. “She’s just a really old soul.”

Bhasker wasn’t just a source to add fluff to the fairytale but a clearer look into the broader character of Swift as an artist. It’s hard to remember that Swift is first a songwriter and artist, then a celebrity. The craft behind her talent in storytelling and music is just as important as a journalists craft in writing.

Beyond those examples, Moody’s article is good because it’s honest. A lot of writers gush about their subject. They act like they are best friends in the introduction and try to make them sound as normal as possible. I’ve always felt that the writers who do that are more infatuated with the celebrity than the story they have to tell. I appreciated Moody’s balanced approach while keeping the story colorful and away from the hard news barrier.

Though I am a Swift fan, I have to admit that a lot of articles and features about her make her out to be a princess. This article focused on her as a writer and a musician which I admire.

This article is so good because it’s not like every other story I’ve ever read. That makes it memorable. That makes it worth it.

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